Recently I had the opportunity to go and try the electric VW Golf for a spin, an opportunity I jumped on immedeately. The event was hosted by PON and located in Amersfoort at the Gazelle Experience Center where they also had a demo for their electric bicycles. The bicycles I tested too and I was pleasantly surprised by them, but the main attraction was the electric VW Golf.
The Electric VW Golf, looks "Just like a normal car"
The engineer on site explained that the cars present were all part of a prototype fleet, the actual electric VW Golf will be based on the next generation model. The car looks exactly like the conventional VW Golf, apart from the obvious missing tailpipe and the electric cord coming out of the socket to charge it. It also packed a small solar panel on the roof which reduces the temperature in the car a bit. This is done by reflecting part of the heat that directly hits the panel, but also by the electricity generated this way. I find it a bit disappointing that the power from these solar panels on top of cars is not a really significant amount of power (yet), though that might also improve in the future. For now the power from the panel is good for a few utilities, the radio and a bit of extra power for the air ventilation system.
The Solar Panel on the roof, not for recharging the traction battery
The car itself feels very sturdy and reminded me a lot of the Nissan Leaf experience ("Just like a normal car") though this one has some controls over how the regenerative braking is applied. Basically there are two driving modes, D and B. In the D-mode, there is no power being recouped if you release the pedal. This allows you to coast along, you recoup no power, but you also will not slow down in the B-mode. In the B-mode, you do recoup power when decelerating. The amount can even be tweaked a little with the two flipper controls at the back of the wheel, where a higher rate of regenerative braking also implies a higher rate of slowing down. This mode of driving is more suitable for urban areas, where speeds are lower.
The car packs a 26.5kWh battery on which it can do a 150km trip. A pity my test drive was rather short, I would have loved to test this obviously. The trunk seems to be the same as a conventional Golf, the battery has not reduced the capacity for luggage or passengers in any way. The motor has a maximum output of 85kW, which results in a top speed of 135 km/h and allows for an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 11.8 seconds. The torque is said to be 270 Nm, which makes for that nice sporty feel when accelerating.
The testing fleet, there were three of these prototypes around to play with
Some points for improvement I discussed on site where the battery level indicator, currently it shows a static battery symbol and a percentage next to it. On the average phone you have the battery symbol also indicate a full, half full or nearly empty status. It was something they are looking into at VW. Also having driven the Nissan Leaf, I noticed there was a nice display in the center console of the VW Golf, but it did not feature a rear-view camera for the cases where you reverse. A nice luxury on the Leaf, so VW is also looking into that now for the actual EV they will launch. They were quite pleased with the sound they had engineered for the Golf in order for pedestrians for example to hear the car approaching. I understand the need for a sound, but I also think it is a solution that just overlooks that the drivers themselves also need to be more aware they are not automatically noticed anymore. I also overheard a few other people who had driven the Golf who would like a more macho sound for the Golf. Perhaps a service like different ringtones for your car is viable, contrary to my belief?